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Friday, December 07, 2007

The Golden Compass

I've thought about it and this is the conclusion I've come to. I've received X number of forwards from people telling me that I should not watch The Golden Compass because the author of the book series is a self-proclaimed atheist who wants to convince children that there is no God, that God should be killed and that the church is full of crack-pots and lunatics. In a nutshell.

I've heard mixed messages from Christians themselves on this book/movie. (I'm going to talk about this as being applied to either the book or the movie.) Some say that we should not be afraid of the message and avoid it for fear. I agree. Some say that they will watch it anyway just because they are being told not to. (I really think that's what the motivating factor is for some personalities.) Some say "It's all entertainment."

People in the media are comparing it to Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The media speculates that people who do not agree with the message of the Compass book and movie will go and see it anyway.

I haven't gotten into the debate over this movie with anyone (and I'm not really planning to). I'm just stating my conclusion. I was listening to the Focus on the Family review via the radio today and something they said reminded me of what Lewis said the purpose behind Narnia was.

Lewis said that the reason he wrote the children's series, The Chronicles of Narnia, was because he wanted to, essentially, pre-indoctrinate children to the Gospel. He said that he wanted to build a foundation within them so that when they grew up and heard the gospel message, it would not seem foreign to them but would almost seem natural. That was the point of Narnia.

When it comes to The Golden Compass, the author of that book has the same underlying intention towards children, only he wishes to convey the opposite message. He wants them to grow up with the idea that the church and God are evil, wicked, and not to be belived.

Both Lewis and Pullman (author of Compass) had and have the same motivation: to lay a foundation for the belief of children. The difference between these two book series is that one intended good and communicates truth and the other does not. That is why I will watch Narnia, listen to Narnia, read Narnia over and over and talk about it with my children and why I will not see and/or support The Golden Compassin anyway, shape or form. (We MAY, however, dissect it when our kids are of age and are firmly grounded in truth and can tell me why the message behind The Golden Compass is false and harmful.)

Is it a fear factor that would drive me away from The Golden Compass? No. I'm not afraid of it. God cannot be killed so I have nothing to fear from this story. However, we are told to be discerning and to use wisdom in our approach to various methods, beliefs and worldviews that are contrary to our own. We should be seeking out the best and not (necessarily) the worst in entertainment to teach our children in the way they should go. If the movitation behind Pullman is to train the children early, then I would not present it to my child. I would present Narnia because it is what I believe is true. And anything that encourages truth is welcome in our home. The Compass, however, is not.

So there it is. The reason I've decided not to see The Golden Compass is the reason that Lewis clearly stated was behind Narnia: to make children accepting of truth. Until they are able to discern, very (very) clearly what is right and what is wrong, I see no point in adding resources to our home that could prompt confusion. Clear, discernable truth is what we should seek to offer our children so that when they do grow up, they will not depart from it.

20 comments:

3M said...

What a great post, Carrie! I'll probably read this series just so I can talk about it intelligently. I may even listen to it (from the library) with my boys, but they're in their teens and have a pretty solid foundation. I would like to discuss it with them--it'll be a good intro to worldviews.

pussreboots said...

Both authors were using their books to express opinions.

Carrie said...

That is correct, pussreboots, both authors were using their books to express opinions. Which is exactly why I think Compass is dangerously influential. Narnia has been! So we cannot argue that "it's just a story." They both back a punch -- just in differing ways.

Carrie K. said...

Well said. I, like 3M, am planning to use it when my kids are teens, as a study in inductive reading. But until they are old enough to understand that the author has a worldview that he is trying to express and convince others of, we'll avoid it.

http://carrie.homeschooljournal.net

JK said...

excellent comments; I wish both sides could reason clearly as you have to decide what they feel is best for themselves and their family, instead of just jumping on a bandwagon...

christinemm said...

I really enjoyed your post.

I also am getting a zillion emails.

I had decided to read the book(s) to myself to make my own decision. I worried that perhaps the emails were hype.

Thanks for your review and thoughts.

I also contribute to Semicolon's Sat. Review of books and that is how I found you. Have a great day.

Terri said...

This is the best post I've read that states clearly why The Golden Compass is dangerous. I agree with you in that we are not to avoid it out of fear, but there is a definite message in the book which is geared toward children and Christians need to be aware of it.

Sandy D. said...

But did you read the book? And if so, what exactly did you think of it? What exactly in the book led you to believe that was Pullman's underlying intention? Because I didn't get that idea from the book myself, and I don't think that Dobson (or any other of the numerous commentators who are talking about now, pro or con) really have a good idea of the author's intentions.

I have to say that as a book review, this was pretty disappointing.

3M said...

Sandy D,

Pullman himself has said that he is an atheist and anti-God and anti-C.S. Lewis.

Carrie said...

Sandy D,

I wasn't out to write a book review of the book. Just joining in the hoopla, essentially, over the book and stating why I had decided NOT to read it.

Here's an interview that Pullman gave that explains his position a bit better:


http://humaniststudies.org/podcast/philippullman.html

(In here he states how pleased he is with Eve because she helped move us away from being the "pets of God"; he celebrates self-awareness and how it moves us away from the idea of God.)

I DO think we absolutely need to be paying attention to books and the message that is within them and that drives them. It's important to be aware. That doesn't always mean that you should have to read the book or watch the movie. That argument falls flat on its face when you are talking about pornography or witchcraft, etc. You wouldn't rush out and involve yourself in that, would you? I am assuming not. Also, please do not assume that I just wrote, "This book is akin to pornography." That's not at all what I said. (I can see the comments coming on that one.) I'm just saying that "we can be free to look at/read/do anything we want" is a bad argument.

It would be ignorant to assume that books do not influence culture and the way that people think. Each book that I pick up and read has a message to share. THe question is: What is the message? And do I want to think about it?

In this case, knowing the presupposition of Pullman, and knowing that even Lewis was wise enough to see that books could influence children, I know that this is not a time in life where I need to bring that book into our home. Hence my blog post.

You'll note that I did not say that I would never read it. I went so far as to say that we might just as well read it and dissect it -- later. But not know because of the reasons I set forth.

Thank you for your comment! It is appreciated and continues to promote thought about the book - which is all I'm hoping for.

Sandy D. said...

Thanks for replying.

I haven't seen the movie, but I thought the book was disturbing mainly because of how absolutely horrible some parents were in the story. It's not something that I think that a young child needs to be confronted with - and that's why I haven't encouraged my 11 y.o. son to read it.

I didn't find the first book (the 3rd one is a bit more complicated) anti-religious so much as anti-hypocrisy, and anti-dogma. Pullman never says in the book itself that organized religion is bad, but merely shows that some men can twist it for their own selfish ends.

I think a lot of stuff gets labeled as pornography and witchcraft that is neither, too. ;-) But I do appreciate your thoughtful response. Maybe I'll try and scrape all of my thoughts on the book together and write a review - we just read it for my adult book club, and the discussion was enlightening and all over the place.

Sky said...

I haven't read the books either, I am going by the author's stated opinions.
As a Christian I am not going to support someone's books and especially movies, who does not believe in God, and is actually a self proclaimed (proudly I might add) atheist.
I would not let my kids read these. Not when there are books by CS Lewis and Tolkien out there.
When my kids are older, I will allow them to read books such as Compass but we will talk indepth about the writings and writer. Knowledge is power and books hold knowledge and therefore power. But power can be both evil and good. I want my kids to understand the importance of thinking for themselves and basing opinions on the Truth that is unbreakable, that is, God's Word.
Harry Potter fall into this are as well, JK's books are not written from a Christians perspective so there are shady areas in them. Witches and Warlocks are not GOOD. Children who are still quite imressionable should not read them without an adult who is going to talk to them and decipher the good, bad and ugliness.
I think it is important for parents/teachers/mentors to stay on top of trends by reading the books and others as well as gathering information from alternate sources.
Fore-read is fore-armed. ;oD

I do not believe that books should be banned. It is up to the readers and writers to cross viewpoints and make a stand.
I have thrown a couple of books away. They were trashy. But that was my choice.
While *I* choose not to support Philip Pullman I do not disrespect others who will and do.

elrj said...

People, people, PEOPLE!

HOW can you decide on something like this without READING IT FIRST?

I'm sorry Carrie, I know that this post stated your thinking behind choosing not to read it.... but I confess, I think I've missed your point a bit. You said you don't want to read Compass because it is intended to indoctrinate kids into atheism. But you aren't a kid. And you clearly stated you may use it as a teaching tool in future with you kids, once they are old enough to recognize the tool.

Frankly, I'm still not sure why you're not reading it. I don't think we can wisely pass judgment on something like this without reading it first. We're adults, we ARE able to dissect it. We may choose for our kids whether or not to expose them, but we should be as cunning as serpents and innocent as doves. I think it shows great foolishness to boycott any exposure whether adult or child. Wise perhaps to boycott giving financial support to such an author.
But that's why I got my copy from the library.

And to the Sandy D, who was offended by the behavior of some of the "parent" characters in the book, but is open minded about pornography and witchcraft.... well, I think there are a lot of rotten parents in the world. You kids already know that; not all their friends have great parents, I'm sure. The best "protection" you can give in that area, if indeed that is even a worthy goal, is to be a good parent yourself... not deny the existence of bad parents. 10+ years of your parenting is not going to be undone by one book.

And Sky, do all the things in your home come from followers of Jesus? because the majority of stuff in the world comes from people who are not believers, whether they are so outspoken about it or not. Are you going to stop supporting everyone? How many great classic books, paintings and musical pieces you must be boycotting too! And all things Disney, I'm sure. That's not a very good way to show Christ. You LOVE people into the Gospel... not boycott them into it. You should pity this man in his darkness, pray for this man, even love him. You don't have to support him financially (library people, library), but the fact that a person is a God-hater is not a reason to boycott them!

JK said...

elrj, you made some great points, but that last line tales the wind right out of your sales -- because he is a "God-hater" is the perfect reason to boycott, to express and stand for your worldview and personal convictions by not buying, renting, borrowing, watching or discussing the artistic merits of anything related to the offending work.
That said, I agree it is a moot point to discuss the book without reading it first, or support/condemn the man or the issues without doing the research, and it is kinda silly to be "offended" by a book character's behavior...

Carrie said...

I'm laughing at elrj because I know her. =D And she knows me which is why she wrote what she did.

That WAS a funny last line. And I knew you, in particular, would disagree with my position. Nevertheless, that's what it is.

I'm NOT going to bring it in our house when the kids are small. I just don't see the point, given the author's position on why he wrote the book and what he stated he wants kids to believe. It would be almost stupid for me to bring it into the house now. I know you are thinking of it in terms of "Well, CARRIE is an adult." But I'm an adult with a small child who can still be influenced even right now. Thus, it's not coming in.

I did say that we *might* use it later on to dissect it once everyone understands what it is that we're doing and what we're lookign for. Right now he doesn't; so we won't.

My point is not that we boycott everything that is "bad" in a worldly sense. I don't even try to do that because it's too hard these days. Everything is too intertwined to make a go out of a world wide boycott without ending up cold and hungry in an effort to be pure. That's execessive. In this case, the author has made himself so clear that it's easy for me to say, "I'm not going to watch this movie or read this book" and I don't have to backtrack all his sponsers. I just don't pick it up or turn it on. He makes his point, I make mine. AND I protect my kids from dangerous materials which can be confusing at a young age when you aren't ready to dissect the world like a college graduate with experience under their belt.

Here I stand. ;D (haha)

elrj said...

jk, (for starters, I love that your name is the common shorthand for 'just kidding')
we were all God-haters before we came to belief. Jesus didn't bring tax-collectors and prostitutes to faith by boycotting them.

We may not be called to be "of" the world, but we are called to be in it! In order to faithfully boycott all God-haters we would take a huge chunk out of the history of the Western world! Art, music, literature, not to mention many of the modern corporations which we all frequent through shopping who hate God quietly, as not draw attention to themselves.
In fact, if you think we ought to boycott all God haters, then it is our moral imperative to investigate all people we give money to, to see if they hate God.
What ever will you do if a non-Christian president gets elected? How do you feel about the God-haters in the Senate and Congress? That seems infinitely more important than some children's book... are you going to stop paying taxes?

You should even boycott parts of the church; there are some God-haters in there too. Maybe you should boycott the church as a whole, and go it alone, just you and God.

And where does the boycotting stop? You refuse to give him money by seeing his movie or buying his book, but do you boycott the theaters which are showing his film? Do you encourage other people to join the boycott? Would you boycott him as a teacher for your children? Would you refuse to live next door to him and let your children play with his? What if you were the owner of the home next door, would you not rent it to him?

What if, instead of a writer, he were your uncle and openly hostile towards Christianity? Would you uninvite him to holidays at your home?

Do you see where that type of thinking can lead?

No, we are not called to be other people's judge. No one but God himself knows that path he has for Mr. Pulliam to walk. Why, he may be with us in the end! I would like to hear your Biblical argument for boycotting God-haters. Let me know.

In support of my argument, I will now add some links (cut and paste).

http://www.leithart.com/
archives/003427.php

http://havingtwolegs.blogspot.com/
2007/11/imitation-is-sincerest-
form-of-flattery.html

http://www.firstthings.com/article.
php3?id_article=2181&var_recherche
=an+almost+christian+fantasy

JK said...

Wow, elrj, where to start? First, awesome comments, opens up a huge realm of debate/conversation possibilities... but I'm supposed to be cleaning house before The Wife gets home, so just a few quick quips and I'll check out those links later...(and I don't claim you are wrong on any of your points!)

Jesus wasn't on the consumer side or a business partner with the tax guy and the hooker...

taxes? "render unto Ceasar..."

has any President really been a Christian? I'm sure that falls under being judgemental, but there are a ton of spiritual and ethical compromises that have to be made to succeed in that line of work...

an invite to my home for dinner would be predicated on his behaviour and respect for others, not on his personal beliefs... "openly hostile" at the dinner table = no dessert, no matter who you are...

jumping from refusing to read a book to a 100% boycott of all things unChrist-like is ludicrous and impossible... we all choose our "exceptions" in daily life, big picture and small... but we don't embrace the world and all it's trappings in the name of being a witness for the faith...

Sky said...

ELRJ
You kind of jumped to the conclusion that because I said I wasn't going to support Pullman I was boycotting his works and wrapping up all things un-Christlike and boycotting them too. That is not it at all, I am not *buying* his books or *buying* tickets to see the movie. It has been so closely associated to Narnia and Tolkien that I think this is a good opener to explain to the unknowing WHY I am not supporting PP. He IS a self-proclaimed GOD-hater. WHY would I support him?
I do not boycott anything, it is wrong and bad. (Hence my last paragraph in my previous post in which I said I DO NOT BELIEVE IN BANNING) *MY* concern is for my children, I am VERY careful about what they read and see me read, I do not get secular books to preview for them yet. They are just not that age.
My point is that we must be careful about the material we allow in our young children's home.
I enjoy a great many things that are not of Christian origin, however if a person is being completely upfront and honest about being an atheist then I will not support them monetarily and I will be upfront and honest about why! I am a Christian!
If you would like to continue in discussion CB has my email address.
(All in good spirit of course!)
Peace and LOVE!
Sky out

elrj said...

I guess I was unclear in my writing, and am still unclear on your answers.

I'm not jumping from "refusing to read a book"... (particular since I AM reading the book; from the library) I'm jumping from the 'refusing to give money to God-haters' sentiment. I must not have been clear enough, but my last post was about financial boycotting, only wandering into the relational at the very end.

You say you chose not to financially support anyone who is openly atheist. I'm trying to make the point that people are either for God, or against Him; there is no gray area on this particular issue. Yes, some people are more antagonistic than others, but I guess I wonder then, by what standards do you go around measuring God-haters saying "ok, I'll give you money" or "sorry, no money for you"?

But more important than the money, I am talking about our Christian relationship with the culture around us. What do you think that SAYS to those non-Christians surrounding us, the God-haters, when we go around making a big stink about their not conforming to our standards, and therefore we refuse to give them money until they do conform?

Because, if you are financially boycotting God-haters for openly eschewing Christian morals, where does the boycotting end? Do you financially boycott Disney because it has Gay Pride day? gas-stations, convenience stores, and groceries that sell pornography? pharmacies that supply "morning-after" pills? Theaters that choose to show films like Golden Compass? Production companies that print and produce into film books like Golden Compass, such as Del Rey, Knopf Books for Young Readers, Laurel Leaf, New Line Cinema? Do you boycott all who stand to gain financially by it's production, and consequently, their support of this God-hating work?

I would still love to hear a biblical argument in support of the idea of "boycotting" either financially, or in general....

JK said...

boycott: refuse to deal with something; to cease or refuse to deal with something such as an organization, a company, or a process, as a protest against it or as an effort to force it to become more acceptable.

from MSN encarta dictionary

I don't understand why a boycott is "wrong and bad" -- most of time they are ineffectual at best, although threats of consumer boycotts have prompted some companies to reverse controversial decisions/policies, such as advertising during specific tv shows; the manner in which a boycott is handled could be wrong or bad -- a personal boycott of a product or a behavior can be seen as a statement of faith, of standing up for certain beliefs, and should be respected. If handled poorly, as if only to critisize someone else or draw attention to your own cause (something about a plank in my eye?), that usually backfires and just creates interest in the controversy itself, not the core issue...

Aren't there those that say Yes, you should take your boycott all the way to the top: to Disney and beyond! Lukewarm gets spit out -- it's like an election: if EVERYONE who wanted H. Clinton to be Prez actually voted for her it would be no contest, but people talk big then fade out, and only 15% of Americans vote (ok, I don't know exact #s, but the majority do not vote at all, right?) So if you really wanted to stop this book from being read or the movie being seen, don't read/watch, and don't have anything to do with any of the parent companies at all, and by your example (the most important part -- walk the walk) more people will do the same and the company/authors/librarians will produce more of what you want to consume...

thanks for letting me ramble...

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